Teamwork techniques

Together we are strong – a plea for teamwork

Hardly anyone doubts that teamwork techniques are important. However, we cannot claim that everyone knows how to do it right.

When conducting Lean transformation processes, we – ActioGlobal – are well aware of the importance of teamwork. This is because its performance is directly proportional to the speed of the transformation.

Mastering teamwork techniques is therefore essential to achieve the expected results and customer satisfaction.

In this article we share some of the key elements to master these techniques, we take a brief walk through the psychology behind teamwork, and we conclude with the benefits obtained by working as a team in some of the activities practiced in Lean environments.

Teamwork Methodology

To begin with, we must understand that teamwork is a tool or device that organizations use to achieve a result. And this result, in turn, will depend directly on the performance of the team.

Companies that have achieved the status of HPO (High Performance Organization) know about the above definition and place high value on the performance of all team activities within the company.

Three basic ingredients of teamwork

The Process Approach helps us describe teamwork through the three basic components: input, the process itself and output, which in turn uncovers the related key elements:

  • The input: any busine that requires merging several people into team needs to contain the appropriate information so that the process can be executed properly.
  • Teamwork (output) must be as efficient as possible to achieve the optimum result (output). For this process to be truly efficient, we must manage the following 4 components:

  • The objectives pursued in the process (teamwork) must be clear from the beginning. Why will we work together? What is the challenge? What is the improvement?
  • Setting (the medium) offered to the team to work in must be appropriate: a defined space for the activity, well-defined and previously agreed rules of the game, and a simple and effective communication system, based on Visual Management.
  • The working method for the activity must be crystal clear, i.e. standardized, with a clear agenda, a defined rhythm, with both spaces for debate and synthesis, as well as clearly defined roles for the participants.
  • People who are part of the team, and thus of the process, must match in number, capacity, diversity, potential and attitude.
  • The result (outcome): the process only exist to deliver an outcome, a result.

How do we behave when we are on a team?

One of the masters of Group Psychology (Kurt Lewin: 1890-1947), tells us in one of his texts1:

«individual variations of human behavior in relation to the norm are conditioned by the tension between the perceptions that the individual has of himself and the psychological environment of which he is a part, the living environment».

1 Lewin, K. (1939): ”Field Theory in Social Science

What he is saying is that:

we, humans, behave in a different way depending on whether we are alone or in a group.

He also tells us when being in a group, in a certain environment and with a certain tension, makes our perceptions change. And it is precisely in that moment of changing perception that people’s potential and talent are released.

ActioGlobal´s objective – make our clients advance towards an Agile High-Performance Organization

It´s this treasure of teamwork and also our objective at ActioGlobal we aim at: enable people to place their talents at the service of customer needs.

In practically all sectors of business, we have developed from producing large quantities of few benchmarks to small quantities of multiple benchmarks. This dazzling change of scenario has forced companies to use the talent of their employees to improve results to the detriment of costly investments in technology (Toyota is the most prominent example).

The management of people has always been the competitive advantage of companies and will continue to play this important role for many years. Consequently, Human Resources departments must evolve and provide the proper tools to manage the emotions of their employees and, through teamwork, release the talent they treasure.

Learning through training

The benefits obtained of teams orientation are several and diverse depending on the group work that is developed.

Below, we briefly describe three of them:

  • Kaizen activities: these are group activities in a workshop format that aim to achieve a measurable improvement through a defined methodology in a specific area of the company (production line, department, project, etc.) These activities place the company’s support services (quality, safety, processes, etc.) and the management (middle management and directors) at the service of the GEMBA so that the improvement is made ‘waste-free’, i.e. quickly and efficiently.

The benefits of this activity are clear:

  • Communication of real problems in the field is improved.
  • Problems are solved immediately.
  • Teamwork is promoted by breaking down departmental barriers.
  • Training Dynamics: group activities that accelerate learning through theoretical training and practical group work. They promote the actual implementation of the knowledge acquired, in a scenario of controlled stress, where competition is promoted:

  • Genuine learning of key concepts, by positioning team members in a tight situation (challenge).
  • Learning by imitation, the most lagging teams from the most advanced teams.
  • Acceleration of the learning process with a greater number of trainers (mentors) serving the company.
  • Hoshin Kanri: a group tool that defines the company’s long-term strategy and deploys key performance indicators (KPIs) across all departments and sections of the company. This is quite an expensive activity in terms of resources (time and number of people), but with immense benefits in the medium to long term:

  • Improvement of leadership and communication, since the whole company now understands the decisions that are made.
  • Increasing people’s development, because it´s them who ask for training where they know they fall short of the objectives that their department or section has set.
  • Increasing the profitability of the business (EBITDA), since all the employees are oriented to a common objective, leaving aside ethereal discussions but focusing on what is relevant.

As already mentioned, each of these techniques requires internal leadership. However, initially, when they have not been mastered, yet, external leadership is needed to develop the key elements of teamwork as well as its psychological aspect.

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